My postpartum fitness journey
I wasn't prepared for postpartum recovery.
Mostly because I couldn't see past labor. I mean, labor is the scary part, right?
Once I got out of the hospital, recovery wasn't so bad.
I lost too much blood, so I had to take iron supplements, wheel around in a wheelchair for a few days and (sorry if this is TMI) have some pills administered rectally.
Yeah, not so fun.
But that was all in the hospital.
Tearing was my biggest concern, but in my experience it wasn't that bad. Memphis's head has always been in the 100th percentile, so I had some second-degree tears — which isn't the worst kind or the best kind ... if there is a best kind. I had stitches but it's not like I could really feel them.
What I was least prepared for was the recovery time.
I knew that, according to doctors and insurance companies, it could take 6-12 weeks to recover — which is why women generally get 6-8 weeks of maternity leave — but somehow I thought that was how long it took other people.
Other people. Not me.
I stayed active throughout my pregnancy so surely that gave me a speed pass. I'd be back to my normal self in a couple days.
Delivering a baby does a number to your body. My steps were slow and methodical. Stairs were tough. I couldn't carry anything heavier than Memphis. And I really couldn't, or I would bleed. No, gush. Again, sorry for all the graphics.
Speaking of graphics — the bathroom.
Bathroom trips were the worst parts of my day. "A quick pee" was never quick. It was a long process requiring lots of tools in the torture chamber that houses the toilet. And I don't even want to talk about going No. 2.
Working out was definitely not on my radar. I was still trying to figure out how to pee normally again.
Even when the bathroom stopped being a torture chamber, I wasn't eager to rush back into fitness. Not for fitness's sake. I started moving for my mental health when I was ready. To be honest it's still mostly about mental health for me, and I'm three months postpartum.
Here's what I started doing. I follow some badass trainers on Instagram who snapped back what seemed like immediately. Which is awesome.
I wasn't ready for all that. Which is also awesome.
Every woman's body and postpartum experience is different. Don't beat yourself up if you're not feeling as active. Also, don't judge me if you're feeling much more active. Let's just both agree that we're goddess warriors for doing what we did, embrace how our bodies are responding and move (or not) in ways that best serve us.
1 week postpartum: Sit outside
I made a point to go outside everyday. The weather was nice enough, fortunately. I would take Memphis to the patio with me and just sit in the sunshine with a book. During the period of sleepless nights, I needed that sunshine to feel like a human and not a zombie with food sources attached to my chest.
2 weeks postpartum: Walks
At two weeks postpartum I started feeling more able to walk. So our patio dates became stroller dates. I walked around the block to start, gradually feeling able to go further and further. Again, this wasn't power walking. No fitness here. It was all about getting out of the house and feeling like a person.
3-5 weeks postpartum: Walks + gentle yoga
At three weeks postpartum, I continued to walk, but I was eager to get back on my mat. It was usually for 5-15 minutes, and mostly I would do some restorative stretches. Lots of shoulder/chest/neck work to counter the strains of breastfeeding. And let's be real, savasana was my jam.
I was thinking about sharing a quick sequence I used as a new breastfeeding mom. Would you be interested? Let me know!
6 weeks postpartum: Stepping it up
I was medically cleared to work out at six weeks, so long as I took it easy and listened to my body (which I think we should all be doing all the time anyway).
I started doing a little power yoga. Still pretty gentle, but adding some strengthening postures like warrior poses and short planks. When I took Memphis for walks, if I felt up to it I might jog for a few moments. I mean like, probably 10 seconds at a time if I had to guess. And it was probably a slow-as-shit jog. But for those 10 seconds I felt like I was an Olympic sprinter compared to the waddling walrus I was when I was 41 weeks pregnant.
8 weeks postpartum: Back at it
By 8 weeks postpartum I felt like myself again. I'd lost some strength — mostly core strength from ... you know ... carrying a human around in my belly for 10 months. But I didn't feel constrained and started jogging longer intervals and taking heated yoga classes again.
Memphis was a good little trainer. He realized that jogging was more fun than walking. Having a happy, giggly baby in front of me is what motivated me to keep it up.
Beyond 8 weeks
You're considered "postpartum" for the rest of your life after you have a child. Did you know that? I didn't.
There are some things that I'm sure will never be the same as before in my body. I'm totally fine with it. When I see those extra skin folds of loose skin in my twisting postures, it reminds me of what my body is capable of and only makes me feel stronger. At one point in my life, that excess skin would have horrified me. But having a baby has completely shifted my perspective about my body.
It is humbling though. Humbling that I can't do the things I used to.
Arm balances are slowly coming back to me but the first time I tried to get into hurdler's pose — an arm balance that came easily to me before pregnancy — I collapsed on the ground. IT WAS SO HARD. Where you at, core?
Basically anything requiring core strength (which is pretty much everything in power yoga) was hard. But I'm regaining strength every time I hit the mat, which is pretty cool to see.
The second time I tried hurdler's pose I held it for a brief moment. A few seconds longer the third time. Now I'm holding it for several seconds. My exit isn't graceful yet, but I'm getting there.
It's humbling, but it's also fun! Fun to feel myself regaining strength. Fun to be able to play on the mat again without having a big beach ball in my belly.
Prenatal yoga was it's own kind of special. Instead of connecting to my own body I was connecting to my baby.
I loved feeling his little kicks when we practiced. He especially loved forward folds and savasana. But I'm also happy to be flowing in just my body again. They are two different experiences and I'm grateful to have experienced both.
I haven't lifted weights since having Memphis. Unless you count the 3-pound dumbbells I use to demonstrate exercises I teach in Yoga Sculpt. Not because I don't feel physically capable, but because I haven't wanted to. As a mom to a 3-month-old, I don't have hours to commit to working out everyday. So when I have the space in my day to move, I either want sunshine (walking/jogging outside) or yoga.
I'm sure I'll be more interested in fitness for the sake of fitness eventually. But for now I'm enjoying this time to get reacquainted with this body. This body that created and sustained another life. That is stronger than I ever thought possible. And that I respect that hell out of.
Mamas, we are warriors. If you're feeling discouraged because you've got some extra layers and less muscle, remind yourself that you did something incredible. Worship that mom bod.